“Restoring the Spirit: Celebrating Haitian Art” is a landmark survey of Haiti’s complex visual traditions from 1940 to the present, a portrait of its artists’ devotion to creative endeavors in the face of national adversity.“Restoring the Spirit: Celebrating Haitian Art” has been curated by Rima Girnius, originated by the Figge Art Museum, and toured by Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena, California.
Recent generations of self-taught Haitian artists have invented a distinct style of art-making that reveals traditional values and belief systems. Ranging from vibrant paintings and sequin-covered textiles to sculpture created from reused oil drums and aluminum pans and other found materials, the works put voodoo beliefs and practices into a contemporary context, document historical and political events and individuals, and provide details from small town or rural life, gatherings, and celebrations that are essential to Haitian culture. Perhaps most interesting is the critical function that many of these works played for the collective imagination: fantastic paintings of hallucinatory landscapes populated by exotic animals and vibrant culture serve as an escape from the reality of Haiti’s environmental and political woes. Image-making acts as both a removal from reality and a proposal for utopia.
This exhibition, an important survey of Haitian art, demonstrates that, despite Haiti’s turbulent and often bloody political history, the country has developed a flourishing artistic tradition that speaks to the vitality of Haitian culture and the indomitable spirit of its people.